Residing northwest of Raleigh, N.C., lies its “sister city,” Durham, a city of approximately 278,000 people and a significant area known as “The Research Triangle” or “The Triangle,” for short.

The Triangle is named because of the three major universities that form the shape’s borders: North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina.  

With over two million people living in the region, several breweries have found success in the area, including Trophy BrewingSteel String and Brewery Bhavana.

When Barrel Culture Brewing & Blending opened its doors in 2017, its top priority was to create “a brewery that could service the Triangle with that crazy craft beer culture.”

The brewery is located just outside Research Triangle Park between Durham and Raleigh, Barrel Culture was founded by a group of friends: Chais McCurry, Caroline Barbee, Ethan Barbee and Jared Strauss.

The team’s primary focus has been “100% oak fermented, fruit-driven, mixed fermentation ales.” In only three short years, Barrel Culture has added a whopping 555 beers to its Untappd page, most of which fall in the American Wild Ale and Sour categories.

A common theme among breweries concentrating on sours is to group their beers into series, like Southern Grist’s Cobbler Series. Barrel Culture has several series, including Melt and Pie Time. However, one of its most sought-after series was So Icyyy.

The So Icyyy beers’ base recipe consists of “pilsner and wheat malts, milk sugar, oats, and a single pellet of hops,” then aging in oak barrels. Each variant was “super-fruited” and contained a different fruit, or fruits, and occasionally other adjuncts like marshmallow or coconut. Select versions of the series were part of the Push Pop subset, designed to mimic a slushie. The Push Pop group had three variations:

  • So Icyyy – Boysenberry Push Pop
  • So Icyyy – Strawberry Cranberry Push Pop
  • So Icyyy – Orange Push Pop

Boysenberry Push Pop is an American wild ale with a 6 percent ABV. This version of the Push Pop series was fruited with boysenberries and blackberries and brewed with Ugandan vanilla. It was then open fermented in red wine puncheons. The beer was released in June 2018.

Poured from a 16.9-ounce bottle into a Munique stemmed glass, the beer features a dark magenta color similar to red wine or cranberry juice. Its head is very foamy but dissipates quickly. The lacing is very light, but the carbonation is excellent.

This fruited sour is somewhat aromatic, bringing notes of fresh boysenberries and red wine. The initial sip is full of fresh fruit and is mouth-puckeringly tart with low sweetness levels despite the large addition of fruit as well as sugars. Right from the fridge, the vanilla is not apparent in the taste. However, the brewery recommends enjoying this beer at 50-55F to truly capture the vanilla’s impact, which I found accurate.

The mouthfeel is light and smooth with a moderately crisp finish. It is very clean, with the adjuncts balanced and noticeable for the most part. Compared to other higher-end fruited wild ales, it isn’t as full-bodied, but the tartness levels are exceptional. The flavors meld better as it warms, and the vanilla and milk sugar then boost the body significantly. However, I never did see the correlation to the Push Pop dessert or even a slushie-style beer.

Barrel Culture So Icyyy - Boysenberry Pushpop
BREWERY: Barrel Culture Brewing and Blending
LOCATION: Durham, N.C.
STYLE: American Wild Ale
ABV: 6 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: $16
RELEASE DATE: June 1, 2018
AVAILABLE IN: 16.9-Ounce Bottles
BEERS POURED: One
From a fruited sour perspective, So Icyyy - Boysenberry Pushpop is very well done. The fruit tastes fresh and the beer is exceptionally tart with lingering sourness. It looks good in the glass and satisfies the aromatics as well. Its only big negative is a lack of refinement and brightness. While fresh, the fruit is a bit muted and slightly muddled. A crisper finish would have also improved this beer, an aspect that ties it together and pairs beautifully with the tartness levels. However, based on this experience with my first beer from Barrel Culture, I would certainly be interested in trying more of its offerings.
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